PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — In their season opener against Upper St. Clair, the Wolverines dropped the ball, in a metaphorical sense. In the rematch Friday, the Panthers dropped the ball, in the literal sense, and Woodland Hills took full advantage.
A fumble on the opening kickoff, a botched punt snap, and a fumble on a run up the middle led to touchdown runs by DeQuan White, Alex Beasley, and Art Thompkins, respectively, and Woodland Hills eventually pulled away for a 42-20 win at Baldwin High School Friday. The Wolverines have now reached the WPIAL Football Championships in eight of the last 16 years.
After seeing its lead cut to 21-14, Woodland Hills, which had endured a key injury to running back Miles Sanders last Friday, suddenly came out throwing in the second half. Cody McClelland, who finished 8-of-12 for 148 yards and two scores, connected with Khalil Harper for a critical 31-yard TD up the near sideline on his first drive of the third.
Hear what McClelland had to say about leading another upset by the Wolverines:
His primary target was Tom Greene, who hauled in five passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Greene and the rest of the vastly improved Wolverines’ secondary frustrated USC quarterback Pete Coughlin, even though the senior did finish with well over 200 all-purpose yards and two TD passes. Coughlin was sacked twice and picked off four times, including twice in the end zone–once by Greene–on fourth-down plays.
Hear what a jubilant Greene had to say about returning to Heinz Field:
In the other Class AAAA Semifinal, North Allegheny left Martorelli Stadium with an easy 47-17 win over Seneca Valley, setting up a rematch of the 2010 title game. That year, by the way, also marked the last time the Tigers lost to a WPIAL opponent. Mack Leftwich completed 18 of 23 passes for 360 yards and five touchdowns.
Meanwhile, West Allegheny scored its own upset, not to mention a second Class AAA Final berth in four seasons, with a 24-7 victory over top-seeded and previously unbeaten Thomas Jefferson at Bethel Park High School. The Indians forced three crucial turnovers, and Nick Halbedl scored twice on a pair of one-yard runs.
Their opponent will be West Mifflin, which ended Central Valley’s season in heart-breaking fashion with a 36-35 overtime win over the Warriors at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium. Despite the ongoing absence of regular QB Nate Climo and the late scratch of tailback Jordan Whitehead, potential Panther Robert Foster carried his team all night with three TD’s, putting them in the lead after the first OT series. However, Derrick Fulmore answered his scoring run with one of his own, and an audacious two-point run by Fulmore put the Titans at Heinz Field.
In Class AA, Jeannette toyed with the Quips early, but this time Aliquippa left no doubt, quickly turning a tight game into a 56-0 drubbing at Peters Township High School. Dravon Henry racked up 171 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Washington earned the right to try and dethrone the champs after upsetting South Fayette, 26-14, at Chartiers Valley High School. Once again, Shai McKenzie put the Prexies on his back with 293 yards and four TD’s on 42 rushes.
The national headline of the night, of course, belonged to Tom Nola’s Clairton Bears, who tied the PIAA record set by Central Bucks West 12 years ago with their 59th consecutive win, a 37-7 rout of Neshannock at Chartiers-Houston High School. All-state athlete and 2011 scoring champion Tyler Boyd, who is visiting Pitt this weekend along with Foster, ran for 115 yards and a score.
The Bears will go for the record in a WPIAL Class A Final rematch with Sto-Rox, which held off North Catholic for a 34-20 win at Dormont Stadium. On his 17th birthday, Lenny Williams, the dual-threat QB, accounted for four of the Vikings’ touchdowns.
So here is the knee-jerk reaction by “Mr. High School Sports” to all four WPIAL Championship contests:
Fri., Nov. 23, 11:00 A.M. – Class A: (1) Clairton (12-0) vs. (2) Sto-Rox (11-1)
INSTANT ANALYSIS: We have a sneaking suspicion that history will be made. The Bears have shown few signs of defensive weakness against the most athletic teams in Class A, and the Vikings are in that camp. Tyler Boyd will want to put on at least one more show for recruiters, while Sto-Rox needs to limit his damage, and get both Lenny Williams and Brendan Blair the ball in space. The problem is, Clairton isn’t giving anybody space these days.
Fri., Nov. 23, 2:00 P.M. – Class AAAA: (1) North Allegheny (12-0) vs. (7) Woodland Hills (10-2)
INSTANT ANALYSIS: My suspicion that Upper St. Clair was standing on the tracks when the train was coming through turned out to be correct, but I also believe the train is in very real danger of getting sidetracked. The Tigers have overwhelmed the second-best team in their conference, and, once upon a time, they suffocated the second-best team in the classification (Gateway) with one of the best defensive fronts in the state. Mack Leftwich needs to stay on his game, and Cody McClelland may need to take his up another notch.
Fri., Nov. 23, 5:00 P.M. – Class AA: (1) Aliquippa (12-0) vs. (3) Washington (12-0)
INSTANT ANALYSIS: Just to give you a friendly reminder, South Fayette had a good defense–a very good defense, in fact–which means you just can’t underestimate Shai McKenzie anymore. My neck might hurt from watching him and Dravon Henry chew up the Heinz Field tundra. On paper, I now have reason to believe this game could be a repeat of last year’s AA Final; whichever team has the ball last, wins. On film, however, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Mike Zmijanac and his defense concocted a way to make Shai look downright shy.
Fri., Nov. 23, 8:00 P.M. – Class AAA: (4) West Allegheny (11-1) vs. (7) West Mifflin (11-1)
INSTANT ANALYSIS: The Titans have proven they can handle the intensity of a highly-skilled Parkway Conference team, but there’s a reason someone from that league has now reached the championship round seven years in a row. The Indians need to be patient and focus on containing Jimmy Wheeler, because if both he and Derrick Fulmore find room to maneuver, they’re in trouble. Otherwise, it puts West A in position to gradually wear down West Mifflin’s defense with their diverse wildcat attack. This matchup will be a true test of conditioning for both teams.